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In Hongkong they say, Filipina means maid. In London, Pinoys come in hordes as caregivers. Here in our country, even lower middleclass families in small towns have household help- so one can’t help but wonder, is the financial state of our people dire enough for a chunk of our population to live their lives in humble servitude?
I grew up in a household that was never without help, since both parents were working abroad and our grandmother could not possibly manage domestic affairs by herself. Suffice to say, we’d seen all types: the industrious, the lazy, the irate, the docile, the proud, the meek, the dedicated, and the indifferent. We’ve had young girls, older women, a young man, a tomboy, and even a transverstite. They were either distant relatives or a family friend, always from a far-flung place, all with the same affliction: poverty.
The youngest we had was Umbang, who came to our household when she was fourteen and painfully shy. She had not had the chance to finish Grade Three, and her story was the stuff of telenovelas. She was probably one of the longest who stayed in our household, until she took an offer to work in Manila- as a maid, of course.
The one that followed her was a Basey party girl who left duties to attend a series of fiestas in her hometown. She lasted exactly two weeks. Now we have a lady in her late thirties who takes my little nephew to preschool, and a sixteen year old boy whom my cousin is sending to school- he is in Sixth Grade at the local elementary school.
Imagine what it would be like, to have parents who either passed away or unable to support you, leaving you no choice but to find work. But despite these circumstances, I do admire some of our help who stayed with us for some time- Rhaulyn Mae was a jolly person who never let her financial status (or the fact that he was a she) dampen her spirits. One of them had strong faith and turned to religion to get him through hard times without turning bitter. Life never was easy, but these people proved its all in the attitude.
I do hope the young ones finish their education, because that’s the only way, I believe, to gain independence and open doors to bigger opportunities. But a life of servitude is not something to be ashamed of- it is a dignified job of helping people even in the simplest of domestic tasks. If anything, these hardworking people becomes part of our ever-extending Filipino family.